Meet the Contenders: Santi Urrutia
 September 7, 2015| 
  • Series News
Six different drivers have stood on the top step of the podium to date in this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Four of those drivers – rookies Santiago “Santi” Urrutia of Uruguay, Frenchman Timothé Buret and Malaysian Weiron Tan, along with sophomore American Neil Alberico – have a chance to take the title this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. On the line is a Mazda Scholarship of $590,300 to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2016.

PALMETTO, Fla. - Team Pelfrey’s Santiago Urrutia made an immediate impact in Pro Mazda competition, finishing second and fourth at the season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., and earning his first series victory two weeks later at NOLA Motorsports Park. The 19-year-old Uruguayan comes to the season finale with plans to take home the title – and to honor a fallen countryman.

Urrutia began his racing career riding motocross events at the age of 4. After winning the Latin American Motocross Championship for children aged 4-6, Urrutia moved into karts, earning five karting championships in eight years, including the 2010 Uruguayan Master Category Karting Championship. Switching to cars, Urrutia raced for two years in the Formula Abarth European and Italian series, followed by single seasons in European Formula 3 Open and, in 2014, the GP3 Series in support of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. 

Urrutia tested with Team Pelfrey mere weeks before the first race weekend of the year but wasted no time making his presence felt, adding a second victory at Indianapolis where he took the championship lead. With another win in the most recent event at Mid-Ohio giving him eight total podium finishes, Urrutia leads the championship by 29 points over Alberico, 47 over Buret and 51 over Tan. Despite the success, Urrutia admits this was not a position in which he expected to find himself. 

“I didn’t think I would be fighting for the championship in my rookie year,” said Urrutia. “I did only two days of testing with Team Pelfrey before the first race at St. Pete, and I had never raced on a street circuit before. I finished second in my first race and that was good, to know I was competitive already! I knew I had to keep working hard, and I won the first race at NOLA. That was really good for me and for the team. The only big mistake for me was at Lucas Oil Raceway. It was a new experience for me, I’d never raced on an oval before. I touched the wall and didn’t finish the race, so that was my worst result. 

“It would change so much to win the championship. I could take the scholarship to Indy Lights. I know the big teams are watching the Mazda Road to Indy, so maybe one of the big teams with IndyCar or Indy Lights will notice!” 

Urrutia comes to the season finale at Mazda Raceway with thoughts of his countryman, Gonzalo Rodriguez, on his mind. Rodriguez was driving his second race weekend with Penske Racing in the CART FedEx Championship Series when he was killed in a crash during practice on September 11, 1999. 

“As a Uruguayan, it is very special for me to come to Mazda Raceway. We lost our biggest driver, Gonzalo Rodriquez, at Mazda Raceway in 1999. I will race with a helmet in tribute to him. He is a hero in Uruguay; he’s my hero, too. I am grateful for everything he did for the sport in Uruguay. We are only three million people and he worked hard to get to IndyCar. I am giving the helmet to his Foundation in Uruguay and I hope to one day be the second driver from Uruguay to race in IndyCar.” 
 
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